American Red Cross turns profile pictures into activism

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 in Digital PR, Marketing
American Red Cross turns profile pictures into activism

I’m not really sure about the value of “awareness” campaigns where you put a watermark of a cause on your profile picture on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. In some cases I can see it working, in most it’s empty gestures that don’t help the cause at all – they are slacktivism that only help the slacktivist to feel good.

A great example of completely worthless slacktivism could be seen in the Swedish part of Facebook recently. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) someone got the dubious idea that women should put up cryptic status messages and hence build awareness about breast cancer. If you find it confusing and illogic, it’s because it is.

This is a translation of the template message:

Your status should say: “I’m going to ________ for _____ months.”

The date of the day you were born is how many months you’re going away for, and where you’re going is listed below:
January – Mexico
February – London
Mars – Miami
April – Dominican Republic
May – France
June – St Petersburg
July – Austria
August – Germany
September – New York
October – Amsterdam
November – Las Vegas
December – Australia

This is not only silly, it defeats the whole purpose. I think that the guys who are part of Movember (Prostate Cancer Awareness Month) are doing a much better job. They got me to donate $30 to their cause. The mystic status updates just made me think “uh, okay” and move on.

So while I still am not a total believer in “Twibbon slacktivism” (using your avatar to raise awareness) I’ve changed my mind a bit. Yesterday Adland/Åsk Dabitch Wäppling turned my attention to the brillant way of turning an awareness campaign into a donation generator.

Like most great ideas, it’s simple: the Red Cross uses my profile picture to raise awareness. My photo is broken into small pieces, then the Red Cross puts its back together over time, as they do with real people’s lives in wakes of disasters like Hurricane Sandy. But in order for me to be part of this, I have to donate at least $10 to the Red Cross. Said and done. Once I donated, I got to see the stages my profile picture would go through as soon as I start the sequence:

The sequence of the Red Cross putting my profile picture on Twitter back together

The sequence of the Red Cross putting my profile picture on Twitter back together

And so, this is a current view of my Twitter account:

My Twitter profile with my broken profile picture

My Twitter profile with my broken profile picture

I have to say that this is a brilliant way of spreading awareness, and turning a slacktivist gesture into an activist badge. A last very interesting detail: this campaign is not made by a traditional agency. It is made by the comp.social lab at Georgia Tech.